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Volume 26 No. 113

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Fox still won the night in primetime for each of the first four World Series games this year
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Fox still won the night in primetime for each of the first four World Series games this year
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Fox still won the night in primetime for each of the first four World Series games this year
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Fox is seeing a decrease in World Series viewership through four games, as the Astros-Nationals matchup was averaging 11.6 million viewers headed into last night’s Game 5 in DC. Last year’s Red Sox-Dodgers tilt averaged 13.5 million viewers through four games, meaning this year was down 14% heading into last night. Despite being down from last year, Fox won the night in primetime for each of the first four Astros-Nationals games. The 10.2 million viewers for Game 4 on Saturday helped Fox to its best Saturday night since January, while Game 3 (12.2 million viewers) was the net’s best Friday since last year’s Red Sox-Dodgers Game 3, which went 18 innings (Josh Carpenter, THE DAILY).

NOT SWEATING IT: AD AGE's Anthony Crupi wrote no matter how the Astros-Nationals World Series "shakes out," it will "out-rate everything else on primetime TV not affiliated with the NFL." Fox over the first two games "averaged 3.88 million adults 18-49." Aside from NFL broadcasts, not a single network program this season has "matched Fox's World Series performance." In light of the "anemic ratings generated by the Big Four networks' non-sports programming, Fox's baseball deliveries remain rather enviable" (ADAGE.com, 10/25).

SIGN OF THE TIMES: In Boston, Dan Shaughnessy noted out-of-town newspapers "hardly cover the World Series anymore." The Dallas Morning News "did not cover the World Series in Houston." World Series press boxes have been "predictably full of folks from Houston and Washington, but there's no newspaper representation" from Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis or S.F. Shaughnessy wrote as far as he "can tell," it is just N.Y., L.A. and Boston covering the World Series. MLB now has "become something of a regional game" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/27).

PLANTING THE SEED: In N.Y., Phil Mushnick noted 38-year-old Cardinals P Adam Wainwright is "likely close to retirement." Mushnick: "If I ran an MLB-partner TV network, I'd start bugging him to become one of my analysts." Wainwright "has it all: Personable, erudite, well-spoken, frank, self-effacing and, as heard during interviews, funny, engaging and concise" (N.Y. POST, 10/27).

Crane on Saturday sent SI reporter Stephanie Apstein a three-sentence apology on Astros letterhead
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Crane on Saturday sent SI reporter Stephanie Apstein a three-sentence apology on Astros letterhead
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Crane on Saturday sent SI reporter Stephanie Apstein a three-sentence apology on Astros letterhead
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

The Astros "issued an official retraction of their six-day-old statement that falsely accused Sports Illustrated of attempting to fabricate a story" that detailed inappropriate behavior by recently fired Assistant GM Brandon Taubman, according to Chandler Rome of the HOUSTON CHRONICLE. Astros Owner Jim Crane sent SI reporter Stephanie Apstein a "three-sentence apology Saturday on Astros letterhead." Crane wrote in the letter, "We were wrong and I am sorry that we initially questioned your professionalism." Astros Senior VP/Marketing & Communications Anita Sehgal said, "This team needs to wear this statement. We screwed up. And we're going to own it as a team" (HOUSTON CHRONICLE, 10/28). In DC, Ben Strauss notes Apstein and Astros President of Baseball Operations & GM Jeff Luhnow met Friday evening ahead of World Series Game 3 at Nationals Park, where Apstein "requested a formal retraction of the Astros' original statement but was given no assurances one would be forthcoming" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/28). Before Luhnow's meeting with Apstein, Crane told reporters, "We made our statement. We got it wrong from the start. Jeff had reached out to the reporters and apologized. We made our statement. Other than that, we're not going [to] revisit at this point. We'll play baseball" (WASHINGTON POST, 10/26).

FINDING FAULT: The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jason Gay wrote, "We live in a world where 'fake news!' has become a cheap throwaway comment, but this was a direct denunciation of someone's professional reputation before the Astros had figured out what really happened" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 10/26). ESPN's Bomani Jones said "whoever green lit" the original statement "has to go, too." Jones added the Astros "made the call to do whatever it took to not fire" Taubman until they had "no other option." Jones: "Who are the people that made that call? Because they seem to have to answer for it also" ("High Noon," ESPN, 10/25). In Toronto, Doug Smith wrote, "It shouldn't end with just this Taubman guy getting fired" (TORONTO STAR, 10/26).

SEEING A PATTERN: THE ATHLETIC's Evan Drellich wrote for years, Astros observers have "cast doubt" on how well management "handles people, and on the team's priorities." The Taubman incident reveals "just how capable Astros management is of bulldozing people and decency." One ex-Astros employee "spoke of emotional devastation immediately following the trade" for P Roberto Osuna, due to the message "sent to the team's own employees -- and specifically women -- about domestic violence." The former staffer "saw no significant resources allocated to dealing with internal concerns." The "fallout from Taubman's behavior has some of the same themes" (THEATHLETIC.com, 10/25). YAHOO SPORTS' Hannah Keyser wrote much of what Luhnow said during a press conference on Thursday "attempts to perpetuate the convenient delusion that what happened at the ALCS was a standalone incident and not a sobering tip of the iceberg" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 10/25).

CREATING A CULTURE: In Boston, Peter Abraham wrote, "Culture is a buzzword that gets thrown around and its definition is nebulous. But it fits with the Astros in this case." Their front-office culture under Luhnow and with the approval of Crane is to "treat people poorly, do anything to get an edge, and lie when you're caught." Taubman was a "product of that environment and in talking to people around the game, none were surprised about what happened." Abraham: "At some point how you win matters. But that doesn't seem to matter with Houston" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/27). Also in Boston, Tara Sullivan wrote Luhnow's "belated apologies, and an insistence Taubman's outburst was 'not representative of who the Astros are and our culture and what we stand for,' have been continually disproved by actions" (BOSTON GLOBE, 10/27).

Kostis has held multiple broadcasting roles, most notably as CBS' primary on-course reporter
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Kostis has held multiple broadcasting roles, most notably as CBS' primary on-course reporter
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Kostis has held multiple broadcasting roles, most notably as CBS' primary on-course reporter
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Longtime golf analysts Gary McCord and Peter Kostis will not be part of CBS' PGA Tour coverage beginning in January, ending around three-decade runs for both. McCord has been with the network since '86 and Kostis since '92. CBS in a statement said, "They were both outstanding teammates and we thank them for their significant contributions throughout the years. We wish them both all the best." Kostis in a statement said, "I have been thinking quite a bit about requesting a reduced travel schedule, but CBS made my decision easier when they elected to not exercise the two-year option on my contract" (John Ourand, THE DAILY). GOLFWEEK's Geoff Shackelford noted both McCord and Kostis "faced expiring contracts that will not be renewed." McCord "handled multiple roles in his 33 years but was best known for calling action from the 16th hole tower along with various late night highlight shows alongside former CBS announcer David Feherty." Only Jim Nantz, who started in '85, has "enjoyed a longer uninterrupted stretch with the CBS golf crew." Meanwhile, Kostis has "served multiple broadcasting roles, most notably as CBS' primary on-course reporter where he has won an Emmy for super-slow motion break downs of player swings" (GOLFWEEK.com, 10/26). GOLF DIGEST's Joel Beall noted McCord "rose to prominence thanks to a colorful personality, one that occasionally got him into trouble, most notably earning a ban from broadcasting at the Masters" (GOLFDIGEST.com, 10/26). 

ATTEMPT TO GET YOUNGER? CBS Sports Chair Sean McManus told McCord the network's golf coverage was getting "stale, and we want to go in a different direction." McCord said, "I am very surprised at what happened. Totally unexpected. I’ve been called a lot of things, but ‘stale’ is not one of them.” MORNING READ's Mike Purkey noted the 71-year-old McCord and the 72-year-old Kostis were the "two senior members of the CBS golf announce team." In this case, "'stale' might be a euphemism for 'old,' and therefore an excuse to practice a little passive-aggressive ageism" (MORNINGREAD.com, 10/27).

WHAT THEY'RE SAYIN': GOLF.com's weekly roundtable discusses the changes at CBS, with contributor Michael Bamberger noting it was "time for new blood 20 years ago," yet the "familiarity was comforting." Luke Kerr-Dineen: "With the ongoing courting of the PGA Tour ahead of its new rights deal, this was an important message from CBS to the powers that be. Things are getting freshened up for the better." Dylan Dethier notes he is "all for freshening up the broadcast," but only if it is an "actual improvement." Dethier: "I’ll remain open-minded, but this isn’t an automatic win" (GOLF.com, 10/28). Golf writer Ryan Ballengee tweeted, "Very curious where CBS is going in the future, and I'm also wondering if wholesale changes are coming to the network TV package. ... Who is gonna replace McCord and Kostis that kinda fit the CBS brand AND are seen as an improvement?" Golf blog No Laying Up: "Some new blood will be a nice change of pace but it’s still going to look and sound the same without wholesale changes. The overall impact on viewers here will be minimal" (TWITTER.com, 10/26).